Jonathan Frasco, Sports Reporter
Humber women’s basketball coach Ajay Sharma remembers tossing Aleena Domingo, one of his best stars, out of practice.
“We have a great relationship, but it was so combative at times too, where I would throw her out of practice,” he said. “But we try to do this with our players where we want them to say, ‘I’m not leaving practice.’ We want them to fight back.”
And of course, Domingo fought back, proving she’s all in when it comes to breaking through her ceiling. And that acrimonious relationship led her to sign a professional contract in France.
When Domingo started playing basketball, the last thought on her mind was going pro.
But after a college career that included winning four straight provincial titles and two national titles, Domingo inked her first professional contract.
The former Humber Hawks stand- out signed a one-year contract with US Wittenheim Basket, a French club located in Grand Est in northeastern France, on Sunday, Nov. 17.
“When I started playing basketball, like recreationally and in high school, I wasn’t thinking, ‘yeah, I’m going to go pro,’” said Domingo, who played between 2012 and 2018. She didn’t play in 2015-16.
It wasn’t until after her time at Humber where her love for the game of basketball was realized.
“I feel like they developed something in me where I love the game so much now, it’s almost like a drug,” she said. “I got to play ball, I got to play ball.”
The team won the 2014-15 OCAA Championship but fell short in the bronze medal game at Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association. After that, something changed in her.
“When you go through that horrible pain of loss, it does something to you,” Domingo said. “It kind of becomes that chip on your shoulder that you carry with you every day after that.”
She said holding onto the pain losing the bronze was a big part of a transition for the senior players on the team.
Everything then became much more serious.
There were changes in habits and mentality that allowed them to focus on the little details and developing a winning strategy one step at a time.
“It’s the level of seriousness and buy-in, how much are you willing to buy in?” Domingo asked.
She bought into coming in early for practice. She bought into putting in extra work in the gym and the hard work paid off after her first year at Nationals.
“After my first year at Nationals I didn’t have confidence, but my second year I was like, ‘yeah, I’ve already been here I know what it’s like,’” she said. “I’m going to go to work and play these three games: done.”
Domingo became the second player to go pro under head coach Ajay Sharma’s watch.
“When she came here, she was pretty raw,” Sharma said. “A good athlete, really strong, ran well, and good size.”
He said Domingo’s motivation increased when she saw herself improving and scoring more. Over time, her impact on the game was felt, Sharma said.
“We have a saying,” he said. “Your ceiling is so high, and we need to get you there, we need to get you to push through it.’”
It’s through pushing a player to be great that a coach and player relationship can oftentimes be volatile, and for Domingo and Sharma, it was no different.
The off-court relationships that Sharma has with his players is what instills a trust that they can count on him for anything.
So, when Domingo told Sharma her idea about playing professionally, he brought her on a team trip to Taiwan to showcase her talents overseas.
“What coach does that, I had already graduated,” Domingo said.
“He could have easily focused on his new players.”
Brian Lepp, Humber Sports Information and Marketing specialist, remember Domingo as a work in progress.
“She just worked her ass off and she competed every day,” Lepp said. “You can see from her stats how much better she got.”
Her 1,134 points are the second-most for Humber and placed her sixth all-time in league scoring. Domingo holds the regular-season and career record for rebounds, and her ten-postseason double-doubles are the most in program history.
Domingo carved her name into history at Humber and feels like the determination and focus she developed through her training for basketball can be applied to anything in her life.
“I don’t know what my life would be if I hadn’t gone to Humber,” a teary-eyed Domingo said.